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Vital MTB Custom Build - Nukeproof Reactor 290

If you could pick any parts for your dream bike build, what would you do? We don't often get that chance, but coming into 2021, Vital's Product Editor Johan Hjord needed a new trail bike for the season and he took the opportunity to build it from the frame up. Check out the video of the build process below, then keep reading to find out why Johan picked the parts he did.

 

Frame - Nukeproof Reactor Alloy 290

I specifically wanted a bike with around 130 mm of travel, to really squeeze out the most fun from of those everyday loops as well as longer days out covering more terrain. With several COVID-related lockdowns to get through, I laid out a few local loops that were easy to get to from the house and could be ridden with due respect given to currently applicable pandemic legislation, which is when I started to spec out the perfect trail bike in my head. After searching high and low for exactly the geometry numbers I wanted, I settled on the 29-inch version of Nukeproof's do-it-all trail bike. I previously tested the 27.5 RS version so I knew the frame had the liveliness I was after, and I was pretty sure that with a bit less travel and bigger wheels, the 29er version would land me in just the right spot - snappy and fun, with enough oomph to deal with higher speeds and rougher trails when needed. I've not been disappointed, so far...

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Suspension - EXT ERA Fork (140mm) and EXT Storia Lok v3 Shock

I've had excellent results with EXT's Storia Lok v3 shock previously, so when the company decided to release a fork, I knew I had to give it a go (this would also give me the opportunity to review the fork since we have yet to do so here at Vital). I'm a coil-aficionado for sure, and given that the Reactor will play nice with a coil, it was an easy decision to keep the suspension side of the build on-brand. We'll get back to you with a full review, but after a handful of rides, I can definitely say the bike is everything I hoped for and more - it's still very dynamic but with the magic-carpet ride of a good coil shock and a fork that provides a ton of grip, even at "just" 140mm of travel. Quite an intoxicating combo.

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Brakes - Hope Tech3 E4 (rotors: 200mm front, 180mm rear)

I've been a huge fan of Hope's Tech3 brakes ever since I first rode the E4 in 2014 (and the V4 took home our big DH brake shootout in 2017 as well). While the V4 version delivers 11% more power (as per Hope's own info), I've always found that the slightly more direct action of the E4 is more intuitive in use and better suited to trail and enduro riding. The E4 provides some of the very best modulation you'll find in a brake, and while the power delivery will take some getting used to if you come from a more "nervous" brake (think Shimano Saint or Trickstuff), there is more than enough on tap for any kind of terrain and riding. The mechanical aspects of the construction are also very sound, and Hope brakes are among the most reliable options on the market today. They are also easy to bleed and maintain, a great plus if you are heavy on the anchors. It doesn't hurt that they look awesome too!

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Crank and BB - Hope EVO Crank and Hope BB

Not only are Hope's EVO cranks reliable to the point of being bullet proof, they look damn sexy too! An easy choice once I had settled on the brakes.

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Transmission - Shimano XTR 12-Speed

Shimano was late to the 12-speed party, but when they finally showed up, they delivered. 510% range and the smoothest shifting on the planet bar none, we had plenty of good things to say about new XT, and Deore 12-speed took home our "Product of the Year" award. But of course this is a dream build, and XTR is what dreams are made of...

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Wheels - Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon E 11 on Industry Nine Hydra Hubs

The latest wheels from Crankbrothers feature different rim profiles and builds in the front and the rear, with a wider, more compliant rim providing traction and tracking up front, while the narrower and stiffer rear wheel puts the emphasis on rolling speed, power transfer and strength. The super-fast engagement of Industry Nine's Hydra hub compliments these rims beautifully, providing instant response and a very solid feeling as you get on the pedals. We loved these wheels when we reviewed them, and they are still a top choice today. Deity's alloy stem caps provided the perfect finishing touch here!

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Tires - Specialized Butcher Grid Trail T9 and Eliminator Grid Trail T7

In case you missed it, Specialized reworked a chunk of their tire line for 2021, and they've come up with some really good stuff - the new super-slow rebounding T9 compound in particular. I've got about 4 months on the DH or "Grid Gravity" version of the new Butcher on the big bike by now, and given how positive my experience has been so far, I didn't hesitate to mount the "Grid Trail" version of the same tire up front here for more testing. I paired it with the faster-rolling Eliminator with the harder T7 compound out back for a little extra speed and pedaling prowess. We'll have a full review of these new tires at some point down the line, but for now I can already say that I do not regret my tire choice for this project.

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Dropper Post - BikeYoke Revive 2.0 185

BikeYoke won our big dropper post shootout with the first generation of the Revive, and they've held onto the top spot ever since. The 2nd version of the post features the same ultra-smooth action, with some internal tweaks to further boost reliability and make the post easier to work on. We called the external "Revive" bleed function a game changer when it first came out, and we still think it's the most sophisticated way to ensure that your post stays free of any unwanted sagging. Did I already mention how smooth it is?

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Saddle - BikeYoke Sagma 142

BIkeYoke don't make products just to copy others, and their new saddle is no exception. With built in "shock absorbers", the Sagma offers an adjustable amount of side-to-side compliance that is meant to follow your hip/butt movements as you pedal. The overall short length makes it a good choice for those who like to move around a bit on the bike on the way down as well. We provided our first impressions regarding this new saddle earlier this year on Gear Show, we'll have a full review for you a bit later on as well.

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Cockpit - OneUp Carbon Handlebar, Stem, and EDC Lite Tool

With shorter travel and a burly build, I wanted to make sure I had enough compliance in the cockpit to make the bike as comfortable as possible. When we tested a bunch of handlebars to find out which ones offered the most compliance, OneUp's ovalized bar came out the clear winner. I really like the angles as well, and of course, I had to run it with the recently introduced mini-version of the EDC cockpit tool. Once you get used to have that multitool so handy, you'll wonder why you didn't get one sooner!

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Grips - Deity Supracush

Grips are a personal thing, but yeah - I wish Deity had started making the Supracush about 15 years ago or so! The compound offers the perfect mix of comfort and grip, and the thicker diameter has given me a sense of more control and less hand fatigue. If you prefer a slightly narrower grip, check out the Lockjaw which features the same compound with a different profile. The Supracush has become the new default choice for all my bikes, in fact I'll probably have to start traveling with a pair in my luggage to make sure I never have to ride a bike without them again.

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Pedals - DMR Vault

Another shootout test winner here - we proclaimed the Vault to be the best flat pedal in the world back when we ran the first edition of our huge flat pedal face off feature, and we've kept it at the top of the table in subsequent iterations ever since then. Sure, the bushings wear out a bit quicker than we'd like maybe, but the grip and feel of these pedals are so good that we're more than happy to service them every now and then to keep them spinning smooth. Another easy choice!

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Bottle Cage - Specialized Zee Cage II

Well it's only a bottle cage, so it doesn't have a very hard job, but it does it pretty well...

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Set-Up Info and Weight

Bike Weight (including first trail dirt): 15.46 kgs (34.1 lbs)
Tire pressure: 28(F) / 30(R)
Spring Weight: 550lbs, one turn preload
Fork Air Pressure: 70 psi (main chamber) / 105 psi (ramp-up chamber)
Rider weight: 190 lbs (88 kgs) +/- a few burgers

Words and Photos by Johan Hjord / Video shot by Tal Rozow

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